Thursday, December 13, 2012

How To Write A Twitter Story

How To Write A Twitter Story

Twitter is a new, challenging, medium for storytelling, one with its own set of quirks. Today I'd like to take a look at the subject of writing for Twitter. Not novels, not at this stage at least! But short works like short stories or flash fiction.


How To Write Good Twitter Flash Fiction


Gayle Beveridge in How To Write A Good Twitter Story gives three wonderful tips:

a) Your story must have a beginning, a middle and an end


Just like it's longer cousin a story must have a structure, there must be movement, an arc. Gayle gives the following example of a story without an end:
At an auction they bought a box of stuff and spent a melancholy evening reading the one hundred year old love letters of complete strangers.
Here it is with one:
At auction they bought a box of stuff, spent a melancholy night reading the 100-year-old love letters of complete strangers and loved anew.

b) Your story must have a character that needs something


Gayle gives the following example:
A full story will have a character who must deal with something. The following story lacks impact as its character is not challenged; she does not want for anything.
During El-Nino the angler fish rose to the surface. While her husband fished she found them, floating dead.
Add tension and a dull story about a fishing trip becomes one of a women struggling with a mundane life.
During El-Nino the angler fish rose to the surface. While her husband fished she found them. Floating. Dead. She sighed, "They are my life."

 c) Your story must be easy to read


Pronouns are your friend, don't omit them to squeeze more words into 140 characters. Again, here's Gayle's example:
Stonemason chips away at last job before retirement. Will be best.  Passion carved headstone. Written words of love, 'My beloved, my wife'.
Rewrite the story and test it by reading it aloud.
A stonemason chips away at his last job before retirement. It will be his best.  A headstone, carved with passion. 'My beloved, my wife'.
All quotations in this section are from Gayle Beveridge's excellent article: How To Write A Good Twitter Story


A Tweet Sized Story: Examples


In October a number of well-known authors were asked to write what may be the ultimate flash fiction: they were asked to write a story in 140 characters or less. Here are a few:

Ian Rankin:

I opened the door to our flat and you were standing there, cleaver raised. Somehow you'd found out about the photos. My jaw hit the floor.

Geoff Dyer

I know I said that if I lived to 100 I'd not regret what happened last night. But I woke up this morning and a century had passed. Sorry.

Jeffrey Archer

"It's a miracle he survived," said the doctor. "It was God's will," said Mrs Schicklgruber. "What will you call him?" "Adolf," she replied.

You can read the rest here: Twitter fiction: Twitter fiction: 21 authors try their hand at 140-character novels.

Also, if you want to read wonderfully spooky stories that are only 140 characters are less, click here: Scared Twitless.


Tweeting A Longer Tale: The Short Story on Twitter


i. Make the plot appropriate to the format


In 2009 Rick Moody published a short story in 153 consecutive tweets, one each hour. Moody said he tried to make his plot--a story about online dating--appropriate for the "merciless brevity" of Twitter. (See: Are Tweets Literature? Rick Moody Thinks They Can Be)

Brandon J. Mendelson, another Tweeting pioneer, agrees. He writes
If a character is mugged at 6am, you could post a police announcement on the Twitter novel looking for the perpetrator. What are the characters listening to on the radio? Is someone calling them that’s important to the story? Use Twitpic to show a photo of one of your friends or an actor to show the reader who is calling or what the mugger looks like. (How to Start a Twitter Novel)

ii. Have A Roadmap


Have an outline but don't let that limit your creativity. (See: Mary Robinette Kowal and The Mysteries of Outlining)


iii. Don't Be A Slave To The Machine


Use a service like Hootsuite to schedule tweets.


iv. Don't Overload Readers


Brandon recommends tweeting no more than 5 times a day while Rick Moody tweeted once an hour. Find what works for you and your readers. If you have a website perhaps put up a poll and ask them.


v. Move The Story Forward With Each Tweet


This is true for any story, but especially a tweeted one. Each and every tweet must advance the story. If it doesn't, cut it.


vi. Be Kind To Newbies


Brandon mentions that, with luck, you'll get new followers/readers as you go. Set up a page on your website--or create a simple website if you don't have one already--that contains all the tweets in the story so far, including the day/time they were tweeted, if that's important. Then put the URL to the page in your Twitter Bio so it appears at the top of the page.


Resources:

- How to Write Twitter Stories (Tzvetan Todorov's five stages of narrative)

Other articles you might like:

- Why Your Story Should Have A Theme
- Hugh Howey's Awesome Deal With Simon & Schuster And The Importance Of Agents
- Turning Off Your Inner Editor

Photo credit: "[ Grand Style : Grand Light : Grand Hotel ] The Langham Hotel, London, United Kingdom @ Langham Place" by || UggBoy♥UggGirl || PHOTO || WORLD || TRAVEL || under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

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